As part of the 13th Florence Biennale, an international exhibition of contemporary art and design running until Sunday at the Fortezza da Basso in Florence, photographer Oliviero Toscani was awarded the "Lorenzo il Magnifico" Lifetime Achievement Award for Art this afternoon.
Jacopo Celona, General Director of the Florence Biennale, presented him with the following motivation for his award: "for having transformed commercial advertising into an instrument of social awareness, adopting a critical and ethical point of view in his professional practice that has led to revolutionary breakthroughs in the treatment of communication content in the mass media. His commitment to promoting human rights, cultural and gender diversity has always been a constant throughout his work. Oliviero Toscani's civil and ethical commitment is not only in his advertising activities, but also in art exhibitions, publishing, appearances on television programmes, radio shows and his militant participation in humanitarian associations, including Nessuno Tocchi Caino".
During his acceptance speech, Toscani commented on the relationship between art and power, stressing that "the artist needs a client, preferably an intelligent one. Because there is a link between art and power. Power needs art to express itself; at the same time, art needs power to transmute the client's request. I believe," he added, "that photography has remained the last means of expression that confronts us with our conscience. Because what we see in a photo depends on what we are. And art often makes us see what we would not be able to see on our own".
In the spaces of the 13th Florence Biennale, Oliviero Toscani is exhibiting an extract of 12 female photos from the large archive of "Razza umana", the photographic, socio-political, aesthetic, cultural and anthropological research that has been underway for 10 years. It is a project to discover the soul, morphologies, expressions, physical, somatic, social and cultural characteristics of humanity.
Short biography of Oliviero Toscani
Oliviero Toscani, son of Corriere Della Sera's first photojournalist, was born in Milan in 1942 and studied photography and graphics at the University of the Arts in Zurich.
Internationally known as the creative force behind the world's most famous newspapers and brands, he has created corporate images and advertising campaigns for Esprit, Chanel, Robe di Kappa, Fiorucci, Prenatal, Jesus, Inter Football Club, Snai, Toyota, Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Environment and Health, Artemide, Generali, Woolworth, Crocerossa Italiana, Regione Calabria, Fondazione Umberto Veronesi and many others.
He has created campaigns of social interest and commitment dedicated to road safety, anorexia, violence against women, the degradation of the Italian landscape, osteoporosis, stray dogs, and integration.
As a fashion photographer he collaborates with magazines such as Elle, Vogue, GQ, Harper'sBazaar, Esquire, Stern, Liberation and many others, working in Paris, Milan, London and New York.
He created the image and identity of United Colors of Benetton, directing its communication strategy towards messages of peace and tolerance, social issues such as AIDS and the death penalty, integration and equality, transforming it into one of the world's best-known brands.
He conceived and directed Colors, the world's first global magazine, and conceived and directed Fabrica - a research centre for creativity in modern communication.
He was creative director of the monthly Talk Miramax in New York. For the publisher RCS Corriere della Sera, he has created a series of 40 volumes: Oliviero Toscani's Photography Lessons.
He founded La Sterpaia, a laboratory for modern communication research, with projects and collaborations with public bodies and private commitments.
Toscani was one of the founding professors of the Academy of Architecture in Mendrisio, has taught visual communication in several universities and written books on communication.
After more than five decades of innovation in publishing, advertising, film and television, he now focuses on communication creativity applied to various media, producing editorial projects, books, television programmes, exhibitions and workshops.
Toscani was artistic director of Music Box, an interactive music channel, from which he directed the cultural programme Camera Oscura. For Radio Rai, he hosted the programme Non sono obiettivo, a cultural criticism format to question banal clichés and old truths, a meeting between art and research to offer the listener a new vision. For Radio Radicale he runs the programme Fatto in Italia, where he deals with issues relating to landscape, architecture, land consumption and town planning, and for Radio Capital a counter-information programme. For four years he was a judge on Sky Arte International's Master of Photography talent show.
Since 2007 Oliviero Toscani has curated Razza Umana, a photographic project on the different human morphologies and conditions, to represent all the expressions, physical, somatic, social and cultural characteristics of humanity. Numerous exhibitions have followed worldwide, including one in Geneva, promoted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Toscani's work has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, in São Paulo, Brazil, at the Milan Triennale, at the m.a.x.museo in Chiasso and in modern and contemporary art museums all over the world.
One of his self-portraits is in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
He has been invited to numerous conferences and conventions, including What's next? for The New Yorker in Orlando in 1996, World Economic Forum in Davos and Table of free voices in Berlin in 2006, Global Citizen Forum in Montenegro in 2017, InnovationDay in Munich in 2018, The Future of Advertising in Madrid in 2019 and NOROO International Color Trend Show 2020 in Seoul.
Florence Biennale Media Office
Photo by: The Factory